KEY POINTS

  • Measles cases have been isolated
  • Afghanistan has the seventh-highest number of measles cases worldwide
  • Six people tested positive for COVID-19 on an Aug. 29 flight from Kabul to Dulles Airport
  • Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., said almost all Afghans at the Wisconsin base are accepting COVID-19 vaccines

A case of measles has been detected at the Fort McCoy Army Base in Wisconsin where Afghan refugees are being housed temporarily as the government works to resettle them.

An internal government document viewed by Fox News stated that the army base confirmed a measles case Sunday, with contacts having been isolated as part of the containment measures. Aside from isolation, the notice said that “post-exposure prophylaxis and inoculations are in process.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, measles is a serious respiratory disease and is very contagious. It "can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children," the agency states. In rare cases, it can be deadly. 

As part of the mass evacuation effort in the wake of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, thousands of Afghan refugees are yet to be transported to Fort McCoy, but the notice, according to Fox News, said the base will not be accommodating evacuees “at this time” to prevent further infections.

On the other hand, a Task Force McCoy spokesperson said the base was still "accepting Afghan evacuees."

A senior U.S. government official also told the outlet that the single case of measles was identified as part of “a robust health screening process.” 

The CDC ranks Afghanistan as the country with the seventh-highest number of measles cases in the world. It says that people who contract measles will experience symptoms within 7-14 days after infection. The symptoms include a high fever of up to more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit, cough, red, watery eyes, and runny nose. Complications from measles include encephalitis and pneumonia. Neurologic and respiratory complications can also cause deaths in nearly 1 to 3 of every 1,000 children infected.

Health concerns have been raised in relation to the mass evacuation of vulnerable Afghans. One of the biggest concerns is that many Afghans who boarded flights out of the country were not tested for potential COVID-19 infection.

In a report by The New York Times, it was revealed that on the flight from Kabul to Dulles Airport in Virginia on Aug. 29, six people tested positive for COVID-19. Multiple outlets reported last week that Ross Wilson, the last American diplomat to leave Afghanistan, contracted coronavirus. Wilson was among the diplomats who stayed in Kabul in the last weeks of the U.S. troop withdrawal to assist with evacuating American citizens, at-risk Afghans and Afghan allies.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., said nearly all Afghans already housed at Fort McCoy agreed to get inoculated against COVID-19. According to him, there was only one person who refused a vaccine, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

The base is being expanded to accommodate up to 13,000 evacuees. As of last week, it housed about 7,000 refugees, the report said.

The Afghan evacuees have had to get past Taliban checkpoints before being flown to Qatar or Kuwait, and then on to Germany The Afghan evacuees have had to get past Taliban checkpoints before being flown to Qatar or Kuwait, and then on to Germany Photo: AFP / Armando BABANI